The first time Peter meets Bucky, he’s sitting on a bridge. Uncle Ben is gone. He still can’t believe it. After being shown the photograph of the man who shot his Uncle, the man he let get away, he couldn’t be in the house anymore. His Aunt’s crying, the memories of his Uncle, the broken door, all reminders of his own failure. He ran, excusing himself to his Aunt- she’d let him go, waved him away, almost as if she knew.
It’s my fault.
He leaned forward, casting his eyes over the edge, sneaker clad feet swinging. It’d be so easy, he thought, to jump. To not face what I’ve done. He wondered if the fall would kill him, or if his new powers would protect him.
“You don’t want to do that, kid.” Peter jumped, turning his head, looking for the man who had spoken. Behind him, standing almost close enough to touch, was a man with long dark hair. His eyes passed over the man, taking in the awkward way he held one arm, the way he sagged slightly to one side as if holding a weight- so slightly Peter knew if not for his newly advanced eyes, he wouldn’t have seen it.
“Do what?” He challenged the stranger. “I wasn’t doing anything.”
“Sure,” the stranger replied, jumping to sit beside him. They looked over the lanes of traffic beneath them silently for a moment. “Sure you weren’t. I’m Bucky.”
“Peter,” he offered. Bucky didn’t hold out a hand to shake, and neither did he.
“Two years ago,” Bucky said quietly, “I came out to this bridge and I told myself I wasn’t doing anything, either. So I get up and I’m looking down and I’m thinking, ‘I’m not doing anything. Nothing at all.’ And I’m standing there, and just as I’m about to step off, my best friend is standing just where I was a moment ago. ‘Buck,’ he says, ‘don’t.’ And I tell him I’m doing nothing at all. And he grabbed me, and took me home, and then I realised I almost made the biggest mistake of my life.”
A moment of silence.
“My Uncle died,” Peter whispered. “It was my fault.” He waited for the usual condolences, the ‘it wasn’t your fault’.
The other man surprised him by simply saying, “How?”
“I was at a store, and this guy…he was behind me. And I don’t have enough money, so I’m stood there and it’s like two cents, so I’m arguing it, and I’m mad…and this guy, he steals the money. And he passes me my milk. So I just left, didn’t help the guy behind the counter, even when he ran out onto the street. But my Uncle, we’d had a fight, and I ran away, and he was looking for me, and he heard and he tried to help and the guy had a gun-” He realised he was hyperventilating, and Bucky grabbed his hand, raising it to his chest.
“Can you feel my breathing?” He asked. “Follow me. In, two three four, out two three four.” He repeated the exercise until Peter’s breath was slow, hiccuping, a few sobs slipping past his shields.
“It’s my fault,” Peter cried. “I killed him. He’s raised me since I was a kid and my last words to him were angry.”
“Did you shoot him?” Bucky asked calmly. “It was the gunman’s choice to shoot him. Did you force him to go after you? It was your Uncle’s choice to do that. Maybe you made bad choices, but so did others in the situation.” There was a long pause while Peter digested this, which turned to a comfortable silence.
Almost 15 minutes later, Peter broke the quiet.
“My Uncle told me,” his voice was a whisper, “that if I could help someone, I should. I didn’t follow that advice and it got him killed.” Bucky stayed silent. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life helping people,” Peter continued, voice growing louder. “I’m going to make Uncle Ben proud.”
“I hurt someone once,” Bucky said. “Someone I cared about. I’ve been spending the rest of my life trying to make up for it.”
“Does it work?” Peter asked desperately. Silence.
“When I feel like it has, I’ll give you a call,” the taller man responded, slipping down from the edge and watching Peter do the same. He wandered away into the night, as Peter headed back to Aunt May.
To his destiny.
The second time Peter met Bucky, neither of them realised who the other was.
It was in the middle of a battle- Peter wasn’t an Avenger, but he was working towards it, he hoped. Falcon was the eyes in the sky, Hawkeye with him. Black Widow and Captain America circled the streets, the Hulk and Thor smashing their way through the buildings and the mothership of the attacking whatever-they-weres. Iron Man was inside the ship itself, and all that could be seen of his efforts to rewire the ship were sparks and flashes, along with the occasional explosion. Peter himself, dressed as Spiderman, was helping the civilians, and taking out the occasional slimy thing that scuttled his way. They were almost spider-like, in the amount of legs and the way they were set, but their bodies were more mammalian, but oozed slime. Their heads, complete with beaks, snapped and bit at anyone in their way. A poisonous tail attempted to sting anyone that got too close. In short, they were hideous, and utterly alien. As Peter was herding the last person out of a bus that had been tipped upside down, the things skittering across it, one of the aliens shot a web-like substance from somewhere on its body. He struggled, pulling and twisting with his considerable strength and flexibility, but he simply couldn’t break free. Suddenly, a metal arm burst through the spider-thing’s head, brain matter attached to the large silver fist, as it snapped through whatever the creatures used as protection (oh yeah, did he mention the things had fucking body armour?) for it’s squishy inner parts. Peter looked up through his mask, into eyes that seemed almost familiar.
“Thanks,” he said. “I’m Spiderman.”
“I am the Winter Soldier,” the man intoned, and without taking his eyes from Peter’s he shot through another alien’s eye stalk, causing it to wail and fall back in pain.
“You saved my ass back there,” Peter replied, ducking under a spider’s legs and webbing it’s tail to the floor. “Thanks again, man.”
They seemed to fall into step easily, dancing around the aliens, webbing and shooting and taking down those confident enough to challenge them.
When the battle was over, Spiderman was temporarily put onto the Avengers team, at the recommendation of the Winter Soldier.
The third time they met, it was in front of everyone on the team.
Peter was nervous. He didn’t know how anyone was going to react to his taking his mask off- they knew he was young, but not this young. Apart from Natasha- she knew everything. He got along well with the Avengers: Tony and Bruce loved to talk science with him, since he loved to learn and gave them ideas. Steve liked to cook, and after stories of his Aunt’s meatloaf, began to teach him too. Clint and Natasha sparred with him, taking on the role of mentors- Natasha had given him the high praise of ‘He’s a natural. Needs more training, but he’ll do well.’ Clint just loved to try and fool his spidey-sense. Sam and he would sit and talk about old movies, a passion they both shared.
As for the Winter Soldier…he wasn’t around much, at least during the day. They saw one another in the hallways of Stark Tower, but the man kept to himself, as did Peter. While the others didn’t have much of a secret identity apart from Sam, who had told him his name and address in case he ever needed any help, the Soldier was fiercely protective of his privacy, much like Peter. The others, when they spoke of him, called him the ‘Soldier’, and he never took off his mask.
However, in the middle of the night, sometimes Spiderman would swing by the tower and the Soldier would be there, just sitting, looking out at the world. They would sit in silence together, staring out at the lights until Peter had to go or the sun came up, whichever came first. It was, Peter could admit to himself, part of the reason he was revealing his secret identity to the others. Perhaps if he showed the Soldier trust, he would be granted the same in return. He hadn’t planned anything special, or dramatic- he was just going to take off his mask and go into the room to watch a movie with the others. The Soldier was there, for once, and this was his chance- he didn’t know when he’d have them all gathered together at the same time. He walked into the room.
Nobody looked over at him as he settled into his seat until he cleared his throat and said, “Clint, pass the candy.”
As Clint’s head turned to check out where he was sat, he dropped the bowl. “Erm, you’re missing a little something there, Spidey,” he said, pointing to his face.
“I know,” Peter replied. “I figured it was time to unmask myself. I’m Peter.”
The Soldier’s head snapped up, and, staring, he said incredulously, “Peter?”
“Um, yes,” Peter replied. “Do I, like, know you?”
“I don’t know if you remember me,” the Soldier said, lowering his mask, giving Peter a good look at…
“Bucky!” He yelped. “No wonder I couldn’t find you, I looked all over the place for you!”
“I looked for you,” Bucky replied. “I wanted to know how you were, but I couldn’t exactly knock on all the doors in the city to find you, and all I knew was your name.”
“You’d have been looking for a while- I was a way away from home,” he shook his head. “I looked for you as well- went back to that bridge every night for a week.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Bruce said calmly, “but you two know each other? And Peter, exactly how old are you?”
“I was seventeen in May,” he answered softly. “And yes, we’ve met.”
“Where?” Steve demanded. “And seventeen? Peter, when did you get your powers?”
“Just after I turned fifteen,” Peter replied, avoiding the subject of his and Bucky’s first meeting. “I was bitten by a radioactive spider, hence the sticking to walls and strength and things.”
“And the web?” Tony asked.
“I made it myself,” Peter replied. “I have little machines on my wrists that fire them when I put enough pressure on them.”
“Let me have a look,” Tony demanded, peering at them. “Good work. Do you mind if I improve them a bit?”
“Yes,” he snapped. The room went quiet, nobody used to hearing Peter annoyed at one of the team. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap, it’s just, they’re personal, you know? I made them, and…Build new ones if you like, just don’t do anything to these.”
“Okay,” Tony shrugged, not looking hurt. “I get it, you’ll have some new ones by Friday.” He wandered away, muttering under his breath about ‘repulsers’ and ‘maybe upgrade the webbing?’ , clearly not bothered by Peter’s explanation of his and Bucky’s meeting when he had such tech to drool over, and improve.
Steve, however, was not to be distracted. “So how did you and Bucky meet?”
“It was just after I got my powers,” he said quietly. “You guys know I live with my Aunt?” They did- Spiderman had often told them stories about his Aunt’s ‘totally awful meatloaf, guys, seriously, it actually tasted worse than that sentient slime last week’. “Well, I made a mistake. And my Uncle died because of it.”
From the tone of his voice, and the fact they knew Bucky and Peter had met on a bridge, they could guess what had happened. “He talked me down,” Peter said. “And helped me make my choice- that I’d do what I could to protect people. And then Doctor Connors and the Lizard happened, and then the Battle of New York, and suddenly there were other things to think about then looking for a guy who’s surname I didn’t even know. I wanted to, it just…I was working so hard to make up for my Uncle. And there was this girl, her dad died because of me. And I thought if I became an Avenger, like you, but kept helping the little guys- maybe one day I could make up for it.”
Bucky leant forward. “You’ll never feel like you’ve made up for it, Peter,” he said softly. “Before, I was a tool. A weapon. I killed so many people, hurt so many…” He looked at Natasha, Steve and Sam. “And I’ve apologised, but it’s never enough. I haven’t washed away all that blood on my hands. I won’t ever feel like I have. But I wake up every day, and I try to do the best that I can. And everyone in this room does the same thing, and we all want to make up for things we feel like we never will.”
Peter looked at Bucky, eyes sparkling with tears, but stayed silent. He did not speak for the rest of the night, but before he left, he hugged each Avenger, whispering a thank you into their ears.